O'Neill confident of rebuilding Villa in transfer window

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The Independent Online

Martin O'Neill, the Aston Villa manager, is already casting an eye towards the January transfer window when he is expected to receive strong financial backing from the club's new owner, Randy Lerner.

O'Neill has performed wonders in reviving the fortunes of Villa in his two months at the club and they are unbeaten after their opening seven Premiership matches. But he was only able to bring in Stilian Petrov from Celtic for £6.5m before the August transfer window closed although he has since signed Didier Agathe and Chris Sutton on short-term deals.

That still leaves Villa with a smaller squad than last season following the summer departure of on-loan James Milner, who has returned to Newcastle, Kevin Phillips, Mathieu Berson and Ulises de la Cruz. Milner was set to return to Villa on transfer deadline day only for the £4m deal to collapse at the eleventh hour.

"I'm looking at the January window and signing Didier Agathe and Chris Sutton are things I've tried to do to bolster the squad in the shorter term," O'Neill said. "As regards the transfer window, we've got things on the go at the minute and I've got a fair idea now where we can strengthen the side. It's having the wherewithal to do this and Randy Lerner was happy for us to try to get James Milner at the end of August, so I don't think we'd be found lacking in that aspect."

O'Neill is set to hold more talks with Lerner when he returns to England during the second half of the current international break. That could coincide with Villa being officially de-listed from the Stock Exchange which is set to happen on 17 October.

One player O'Neill is distancing himself from is the former Villa striker Stan Collymore, who had expressed a desire to come out of retirement and rejoin O'Neill, who was his manager at Leicester City.

"Stan is 35 and he would have to get fit," O'Neill said. "He would need a lot of will-power and a lot of self-determination to get fit for the Premier League, to be perfectly honest. At 35 you need a great desire and I just don't know what Stan has been doing in the last couple of years. I don't know whether that desire has returned.

"He did terrifically well for me in a short period of time at Leicester. But if you're asking me today whether I could make an assessment that would be a difficult call."

The former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Seamus McDonagh has agreed to become Villa's new goalkeeping coach following the departure from the club of Eric Steele. McDonagh, who worked alongside O'Neill at Leicester, has been employed in a similar role at Coventry City. Steele had joined Villa as part of John Gregory's back-room staff in 2001.

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